Mariners Claim Infielder to Pitch

Having already sold off most of his most valuable roster assets, Jerry Dipoto informed the media his top priority during the winter meetings would be to beef up the bullpen. I didn’t think this was how I’d start off a small post discussing the Mariners’ waiver claim of Kaleb Cowart.

I saw the press release in my inbox and initially didn’t think much of it. Lots of waiver claims today. Mike Gerber. Rio Ruiz. Kaleb Cowart. Others. But then there was a section that caught my eye:

Indeed, from the Mariners’ official blog:

Cowart was a first-round pick in 2010. The good news is that he made it to the majors. The bad news is that he’s been a bad major-leaguer. Now 26 years old, he’s never thrown a professional pitch in a professional game, but the Mariners would have to be doing this for a reason. And the idea here is that Cowart has a very good arm. In fact, when Cowart was in high school, there was a chance he could’ve been drafted as a pitcher instead of as an infielder.

In 2010, as a pitcher and as a hitter, Cowart was the Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year. Kevin Goldstein opined that, as a pitcher, Cowart was a first-round talent, being able to get up to 95, with a breaking ball and a changeup. Ultimately, he preferred the position-player path, but circumstances have changed since then. Cowart’s not a prospect anymore, and doors have started to close, so he’s become more, shall we say, open-minded. And I guess I should be clear that it wasn’t just Goldstein who liked the arm. We can consider the opinion of Baseball America:

[Cowart] has arm strength and good sinking life on his plus fastball, which sits in the 91-93 mph range at its best. He also has a hard slider and scouts don’t seem to mind his split-finger fastball, either. Scouts prefer Cowart as a pitching prospect with a 6-foot-3, 190-pound pitcher’s body.

In 2010, according to BA, Cowart had the best infield arm in the Angels’ entire system. They said the same thing in 2011, in 2012, and again in 2013. Cowart, again, has never pitched in the majors or in the minors, not even in an emergency, but this isn’t the first time the idea has come up, as his offense hasn’t progressed as expected. Here’s an article about Cowart pitching, from November 2014. The Angels’ GM at the time: Jerry Dipoto. One of Dipoto’s assistants at the time: Scott Servais.

To Cowart’s credit, he’s been a fine hitter in Triple-A. He hasn’t brought that into the majors. He still could, in theory, and he can cover a number of positions. Cowart wouldn’t have been completely out of chances as a utility guy, but the possibility that he could also pitch makes him a lot more interesting. I have no footage of Cowart on the mound, but I do have footage of this:

Of course, this could very easily go nowhere. Cowart might already be back on waivers again, for all I know. It was just last offseason Anthony Gose seemed like an interesting potential two-way player, and that didn’t pan out, at least in 2018. Most of these experiments fail, and besides, we’ve been seeing more position players take the mound than ever before. It’s been losing some of the appeal. But there’s still something sexy about the term “two-way player,” and at least today, right now, the Mariners sound committed to giving this a shot. The Mariners aren’t going to be good, but Kaleb Cowart might be fun. From the fan perspective, I think that’s the next-best thing.

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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Llewdor
Member
Llewdor

The Mariners have a lot experience having fun players on bad teams.

That was basically Ichiro’s whole career after 2002.

slamcactus
Member
slamcactus

And basically Felix’s whole career.

Joser
Member
Joser

And Beltre’s whole career with the Mariners.